Chapter 1: Homecoming
Being one of two last Uchiha alive made Izuna feel, most of the times, in the need to always prove her, so that the name of the clan will never be soiled by further actions coaxed by her own doing, more than it already was at that moment by the history that was already well known across the nations. She had to admit to herself, even if she will never do it to other people, that Sasuke, along the years that followed his defection from Konoha, had a major part in destroying the already unstable reputation that followed the name of their clan. But she never stopped wearing the Uchiha crest and she never once, in her entire life, was ashamed when her Sharingan was associated with Sasuke’s on sight. She just held her chin up and wore her burden, trying to fight off the curse of hatred nestling in her heart.
Now, with the curse gone, she was feeling relieved and a little bit lost. She wanted to do something meaningful, like Sasuke did with his journey of redemption, but she felt at ease with Kakashi as the Sixth Hokage, so she stayed in the village and finally advanced to Jonin. She refused fiercely every attempt to get her to take a team – she had no patience and absolutely no way sane in which she could train some kids into being functioning shinobi with her having so many unfair advantages from her kekkei genkai’s. Instead, she got involved in recuperating every bit of Uchiha’s fortune that was available – which was a considerably large amount – and sharing it equally between her and her other clansman.
Sasuke’s deeds often reached her ears, with the Hokage always eager to tell her every little thing that he heard from his straying pupil. It was always a casual stating of his location, a mission that he completed for Kakashi while he was there, some stories about a black-headed youth with piercing eyes and only one arm who helped rebuild villages or made a stock of wood for the winter for an elderly couple.
Izuna sometimes felt like laughing at whatever she was hearing. For almost four years she lived in the constant fear of not knowing about Sasuke’s whereabouts while he was with Orochimaru, and then the horror stories she heard afterwards – some of them in which she actively contributed. The pardon that Sasuke and she received in the long trial that followed the undoing of the Infinite Tsukuyomi and after Sasuke’s fight with Naruto was something she never took into consideration when she went to the battlefield and faced everything she left behind. But made sure in the two years that followed that she started rebuilding the trust she lost when she left a village led briefly by Danzo and accepted Sasuke’s offer of combining their forces against them.
She never accepted his ideal of destroying Konoha, but stayed by his side, hoping that she could change that ideal. It was a laborious work. She wanted and needed Sasuke’s presence, his trust and his hand in hers. She missed him in the years that followed his deflection, and she missed him even more while he was right there in Konoha after they lost everyone who was meaningful in their early lives. Izuna never insisted around him, never tried to show support for the village in which both of them were born, instead hoping that she would be strong enough to stand in his way when he actually would set his goal into motion, a fraction of a moment to make him change his mind. Then the war came and he was so set in killing Naruto first, that she felt like pulling her own eyes out. Never again in his descent into the curse of hatred she felt like using Kamui to just disappear and transport herself away. She stayed. Until Itachi showed up, rose up by the dreaded Edo Tensei, while her own dead sensei – the death of whose awoke her Mangekyo Sharingan in the first place – stalled her, forced to fight.
They met again on the battlefield, and the events that followed already echoed around the whole world – the infamous Uchiha Sasuke joined the war and helped put a stop to it along the Savior, Uzumaki Naruto. The Fourth Hokage himself assured her that Sasuke listened to them and that his goal of destroying the village was morphed into something else. Of course, she didn’t expect that bold statement of him becoming the Hokage and it was only Naruto’s lack of reaction that stopped her into bashing Sasuke’s head into her fist. Repeatedly.
Then she died, or was almost dead and the Sage of the Six Paths chose to hand her a figment of the chakra that both Sasuke and Naruto inherited from him. She didn’t expect to be gifted a Rinnegan along with it, although Hagoromo warned her that it was a thing that it could happen with Indra’s chakra already deeply intermingled in her soul.
She touched her forehead, shivering softly in the unforgiving heat of the summer’s sun. The day Sasuke left Konoha; she was there to see him off, knowing that somewhere in the future they would see each other again. His expression was studiedly expressionless, but she could see the lingering warmth in his eyes, one black and one glinting of the dangerous edge of the Rinnegan, a gaze so similar to hers. She felt like laughing if she hadn’t already felt so many emotions blocking her throat – the Sage of the Six Paths said that after her awakening, there would be a pair of eyes. He never mentioned that there would be two; an incomplete set of Rinnegan, the left at Sasuke and the right one at her, as well as the mismatched pair of the Sharingan, one for each of them as well.
“I’ll be blunt” started Kakashi, while he, Izuna and Sakura were looking at Sasuke “By rights, you should be in prison right now. But we have heard your plea and all your actions up to now have been pardoned. Breaking the jutsu for the Infinite Tsukuyomi played a big part in that decision. As well as the fact that I happened to become the Sixth Hokage, and that Naruto, a key figure in ending the war, as well as Izuna, another key figure, whose defection I managed to pass as a mission to spy on you, both testified on your behalf. Don’t forget that. And please don’t get too reckless. Otherwise, I’ll be held responsible.”
“Understood. Thank you.” Answered Sasuke.
Izuna bit her lip and Sakura looked at her almost like she pitied her, which in normal circumstances would’ve made her mad, but she couldn’t care less in that moment, trying to imprint Sasuke to her memory as much as she could before he would set off. She wanted to say so many things, but they all seemed to get stuck in her throat and she felt like breathing right was a challenge in its own. She almost felt like crying. The first time Sasuke left the village, she was robbed of the chance to see him off, to try and convince him to stay or walk the same dangerous rocky path alongside him. This time it was different and she had to convince herself hard about that. Sasuke was not leaving her forever.
“Must you go?” asked Sakura. “The artificial arm that Tsunade-sama is creating from Hashirama-sama’s cells will be soon…”
“I need time to understand my feelings” Sasuke interrupted her “How should I view the shinobi world, this world. Perhaps I’ll be able to see things that I couldn’t see before; things that can’t be seen unless I do this. Also, there is something I’m worried about.”
She nodded when he didn’t feel the need to continue the thought, all of them used with Sasuke’s short answers and Izuna finally gathered her courage. She wanted to say some cool farewell, something worthy of an Uchiha and of their clan’s legacy, but she found herself in a clingy mood when she asked:
“What if I come with you? It wouldn’t be the first time… Maybe I can help you out.”
She felt almost childish and giddy. Sakura was handling it so maturely, well over her childish crush for Sasuke and Izuna felt like she just took that role from her. The shame of the realization made her avoid his intense gaze a few seconds before she gathered to courage to look him in the eyes, meeting the darkness of the night and the mysterious amethyst that became so familiar whenever she looked at him since the war.
“This is a trip to atone for my sins. My sins have nothing to do with you.”
Izuna felt her eye twitch in annoyance and she looked to her side, avoiding not only Sasuke’s eyes, but Sakura and Kakashi as well, who were radiating pitiful waves at the blunt response she received.
“Yeah, sure, nothing to do with me. Tch. Idiot.”
Before she could register what was happening, she saw Sasuke approaching her and she raised her eyes to look at the taller boy. She was met by two fingers that poked gently at her forehead and she was painfully reminded of Itachi and the way he was usually dismissing Sasuke with the affectionate gesture.
“Maybe next time. Thank you.”
Izuna felt her heart get bigger and bigger while looking at the tender expression on her fellow Uchiha’s face, and she remembered of simpler times, when two children became friends. When a little boy with a big smile promised that he will protect her forever and that he will be her friend and she thanked him. It was unexpected, but it had the desired effect. The combination of Itachi’s and her own words, coming from his lips, shaped by his smooth voice soothed out the embarrassment and sadness that she felt and she followed his back while he walked away from the gate, hoping to see him again when he will find the answers that he sought out there in this journey of redemption.
Izuna jumped at the grinning face of Sakura who somehow came to sit next to her on the bench on which the Uchiha girl stopped, lost on her own train of thought and on the remembrance of that day so far away two years ago. She let her hand fall from her forehead to her lap and Sakura’s grin only seemed to get bigger, too smart and observant to lose the gesture.
“Were you, by any chance, thinking about Sasuke-kun?”
“No” answered Izuna as blunt as she could be, trying to discourage her former classmate, but Sakura was not one to give up so suddenly.
“Well, I have really good news for you. Kakashi-sensei received a message via a hawk three days ago from Sasuke-kun. Aren’t you curious to know what was written in the message?”
She was clearly excited and her voice was almost teasing. Izuna just shrugged, trying to hide her curiosity. In the two years in which she handled missions more or less in Konoha, she hated to admit that whenever there was news about Sasuke, she would snap her head to attention, an instinct she was trying with all her might to fight against, but everyone took notice of it, even the dimwit that was Naruto.
“Sasuke-kun found something. He sent a hawk to Kakashi-sensei, requesting backup from Naruto, you and I. Before you scowl at me, you were specifically named in the message alongside Naruto and me.”
Izuna couldn’t remember how to reign in her emotions properly and she whirled on the bench to face the pink-haired girl, regarding her with wide eyes. Sakura giggled pleasantly and caught her hand in hers.
“I guess this is the closest I will get to excitement with you Uchiha’s. Will you tell him how you feel about him?”
Izuna felt like her mouth dried up suddenly and had to use all her will-power to not open her mouth in shock at Sakura. She wasn’t expecting this, out of all the things that Sakura could tell her after this kind of news.
“What?” she managed to croak out.
“Oh, come on, Izuna. Your eyes followed him around since we were children and the same can be said for him. I was pretty blind at it while we were Genin, but I’m well past that and I can see that over the years, your feelings got even more intense. He was even preparing his revolution with you in mind. A powerful obstacle you were, and he told you about the plans your parents had to marry you guys before… that night. He wanted to kill Naruto because he was the only one powerful enough to stand in his way, but not even once did he consider you the same kind of burden, but you are just as strong as the both of them.”
She remembered vividly the moment they all kind of sighed in relief that the war was over, when the last remnants of Edo Tensei were released and the Sage of the Six Paths asked Naruto if his answer remains the same. The way Naruto proudly proclaimed that he will not change and he will keep his Ninja Way. When she turned to Sasuke, her heart was encompassed in ice as he called upon the power of the Rinnegan and trapped all the tailed beasts in Chibaku Tensei. He mentioned his revolution and how he wanted to become the sole darkness in the world. Sakura tried to confront him, to offer him her feelings again, and Izuna, even though confronted with a wave of jealousy, actually hope that he would accept them. Anything so that he could back from the path he was setting on.
Sakura remained quiet and Sasuke accused her that she lost her crush on him long ago. He told her that in his new dream world, there will be only one person that he would come back to when the day ended, one person strong enough to carry their bloodline, and that will be Izuna. He mentioned right then, in cold words, that it was supposed to be that way, since their parents wanted them married to each other anyway. Whatever protest Sakura had on her tongue, it died when he put her under a genjutsu.
Izuna was actually surprised that Sakura actually payed attention. Or that she remembered that dreaded conversation. Looking into her clear green eyes, full to the brim of honesty and playfulness in the present, Izuna sighed.
“Sakura, we both know that when it comes to Sasuke, it’s not that easy when feelings are involved. To be truthful concerning myself, I don’t think it’s that easy as well.”
Sakura looked at her in silence for a while and Izuna even entertained the idea that the subject will be finally dropped off, but she had to predict that Sakura wasn’t so easy to discourage, treating her with the same exasperated familiarity as her own teammates.
“Izuna, you love him. Maybe you can’t realize it yourself right now, and its fine, you just need to see him and I’m sure you could sort out your feelings for him by just spending some time together.”
The dark haired kunoichi heaved a sigh, feeling like she was fighting a losing battle against Tsunade’s student. She was expecting her to be done, trying hard to find a polite way to extract herself and go home where she could just seclude herself away from the prying green gaze.
“You considered him your safe getaway, right, Izuna? When you left Konoha when the Council chose Danzo to be Hokage until Tsunade-sama woke up, you went first to get revenge against the guy who killed your sensei. After that, when we saw you next, you and Sasuke-kun had fought Danzo and he claimed the kill. He left, and you followed, and even though you seemed to have the same feelings that we had against Sasuke-kun, you stayed by his side and you looked more at ease than ever.”
Izuna took a deep breath, and she found herself talking against her better judgement “Me and my team met Sasuke on my way to get revenge. He probably thought that we were on a mission to get him back and braced for a fight. In that moment I took the Konoha forehead protector down and told him to get out of my way. He and Taka followed us and assisted the fight with only their presence, like I did when he fought Itachi… Even though Kamui and Susanoo protected me from most of the injuries, there was faltering in the fight when I managed to get hurt. He took care of me until I was nursed back to health, and offered me a place to his side, and I never felt like I belong in Konoha after Danzo locked me up in the night Sasuke left to go to Orochimaru. I felt like I belonged next to him, and I was right… I don’t regret joining his side, although maybe I could’ve done more to help him out of the darkness…”
“So you admit your feelings?!” Sakura squeaked when Izuna stopped talking, clapping her hands happily.
“I don’t know what I’m admitting.” Growled Izuna defensively “I just know that I always felt at ease while he was around, since we were children, and as you noted, our parents thought that it was fit for us to get married. But they are not here anymore and such promise was never brought into discussion since Sasuke’s lapse of judgement with his revolution thing.”
Sakura had the audacity to roll her eyes and laugh. Actually laugh at her.
“Izuna, be sincere. Do you really think that, as long as you are alive and a member of the Uchiha clan, Sasuke-kun will marry someone else? Or, will you consider marrying someone outside of your clan while Sasuke-kun is alive?”
Izuna flinched at the undeniable truth in Sakura’s words.
“Since when were we talking about marriage, Sakura? And I don’t like the fact that you present the situation as like we are out of options completely. Like we have to get married just because there is no other Uchiha alive besides us.”
“It’s not just that and you know it. And either way, you would’ve been married to each other. But, marriage aside, your feelings are real. So you should consider them more closely, even though you Uchiha run from feelings like they are the plague. You should know by now that your feelings are not forced upon you by your tragic circumstances, but from something else completely.”
“This much talking is making me tired” sighed Izuna, and Sakura just laughed at that “When do we have to assemble to the Sixth’s office?”
Sakura smiled “In two hours. That is the estimated time Sasuke-kun gave for his arrival. You can start packing, but Kakashi-sensei said that we will leave tomorrow morning. I believe that is his way of forcing Sasuke-kun to take a slight break without him having a tantrum temper.”
Izuna felt a smirk pulling at a corner of her mouth, although she felt nothing but tenderness thinking about Sasuke and his stubborn ways.
“I’m going home then, for now. See you around.”
“Hope you will come to greet him, even though we won’t leave for the mission right away, Izuna!” Sakura cheerfully said behind her.
Izuna didn’t answer the girl and chose to just go to her new apartment, her thoughts haunted by Sakura’s words and Sasuke’s beautiful features and she felt her heart clench in her chest. She was admitting that her feelings were real, rooted in her heart since she met him for the first time while they were mere children. The brief siding with him when she left the village filled the void in her heart and brought them closer than ever. He was soft when there were only the two of them. They never talked much, feeling like she didn’t want to push him or herself at that.
Obito laughed about how in-sync they were that they both had to take the offer for the new eyes at almost the same time. While they recuperated, most of the times she found his warm hand search for hers, and holding it tightly in his grip. He seemed so sane in those times, like the curse of hatred was loosening its clutches on him, leaving Sasuke bare in front of her unseeing eyes.
Then the damned Sage of the Six Paths came around, showing her Indra sharing his chakra with the woman who saved his life and tended to his wounds, then Madara before he lost it, with his wife and she felt like it was unfair. Her soul was tied to Sasuke’s before she even had a chance to realize the depth of her love for him. Was it safe to admit this feeling, even inside her mind?
She sighed and lay on the couch, asking herself what was she supposed to do now? She wanted to see Sasuke every single day for the two years in which he was away, but now, upon the closeness of his approach home and put forcefully in front of her own feelings, what was she supposed to do? Did she have the courage to see him?
“What kind of an Uchiha are you?” She mocked, talking to herself “Chickening out of seeing the only person you actually wanted to see just because of some mere feelings? Pathetic.”
Feeling motivated by her own words, she got up from the couch and started moving around the apartment rounding the items that she needed for the mission which was thrusted at her. She wasn’t going to let feelings rule over her. They said no clan felt love like the Uchiha did, but they underestimated the way in which an Uchiha can push under the surface their feelings when it could mingle and blow up their tasks at hand. Two hours were merely not enough to get her fully in check, but she prepared herself mentally for the meeting that was to come.
Two hours later, Naruto and Sakura almost barged into her house and dragged her to the gates of Konoha, both of them excited to finally seeing their teammate after two years of separation. They all heard that Sasuke came to Konoha once, when the whole ordeal with Toneri was moving into place – merely three months ago – but Izuna and her team were away on a mission in the Tea Country and Naruto and Sakura were already on the freaking moon trying to stop whatever the hell was going on. By the time she got home, Sasuke already left, the only person actually seeing him being Kakashi while he protected the village. She felt a little frustrated. While she did scouting and hunting of some band of rogue ninja, Sasuke was in the village and only the damned Hokage saw him before he left again.
Said Hokage was now lazily slouching against one of the gates, his posture relaxed, one hand buried in his pocket, while with the other he held close to his eyes one of those dreaded perverted books that he always seemed to read.
“It seems that even though he was away, your tardiness truly rubbed on Sasuke-kun, Kakashi-sensei”
“Hmm?” The Sixth Hokage answered, raising his eyes from the book, looking so innocent that he almost made the impression that he was actually clueless “What do you mean, Sakura-chan?”
There it was. He always said that in mockery to his students or Izuna. She felt her fist clenching, but Sakura beat her to making a scene, closing the gap between her and the Hokage and yelling at him while flailing her arms.
“You know what I’m talking about, Kakashi-sensei!”
Kakashi’s eyes closed while his eyes wrinkled softly, the only sign besides his mask that he was actually smiling.
“Maa, Sakura, I’m sure that him running late has nothing to do with me. He will be here soon, no need to be impatient.”
She grumbled but settled down, trying to make eye contact with Izuna, which the Uchiha gladly avoided. Their talk was still fresh in her mind and with Sasuke’s arrival nearing closer; she didn’t need that kind of emotional complication upon their reunion. It was something that had to be mused over when her heart would stop clenching so hard from anticipation. She was so lost in thought that she almost lost the way Naruto was inching closer to her, until he stood by her side.
“Do you need something?” Izuna asked.
Naruto grinned at her, not put-off by her attitude, and he felt a smile settling on her lips as well. No matter how rude she could get with him, Izuna held Naruto in high regard and he knew that very well. They fell into that kind of dynamic, surely because Naruto missed Sasuke while he was away with Orochimaru and found that Izuna and Sasuke were similar enough that he could act with the same familiarity and bicker around, and it always made the raven haired girl feel better.
“Ya know, I’ve been thinking…”
“Don’t strain yourself.”
Naruto’s eyebrow twitched before he threw his arms in the air, his blue eyes gleaming with frustration.
“You and the bastard always answer in the same way! I hate you both!” he declared heatedly.
Izuna chuckled for herself, punching lightly at Naruto’s shoulder to soothe out his mock rage. Even though he got more personal and more offended with Sasuke when they were younger and usually fought immediately after, Naruto never went that far with Izuna. His grin was back before she knew it.
“I was thinking that…” he talked fast not letting Izuna crank up another witty comment “at our battle with Kaguya, Sakura-chan and even the alien grandma, were both affected by my Harem Jutsu, but not you.”
Sakura prepared to throw a punch at Naruto, her face red from embarrassment, but Naruto continued anyway, bringing his hands up to form a seal, the grin turning almost feral and his eye glinting dangerously.
“So I thought, since that wasn’t enough to defeat you that I had to make something else especially for you” He seemed to radiate one second and in the next he was loudly shouting, clearing out Izuna’s confusion and filling her with dread “Oiroke! Sasuke Special, Three…”
Before he could finish anything that he had brewing in his head, Izuna raised her right hand, placing it in front of Naruto’s chest.
“Oh, Izuna-chan, already impatient to touch?” teased Naruto, prepared to complete his jutsu.
“Shinra Tensei.” She declared softly.
Naruto’s eyes went wide when her Rinnegan spurred to life. Izuna controlled the repulsive force of the technique enough so that Naruto could be blown off but not hurt. Shinra Tensei was, after all, the technique that had the potential to level Konoha to the ground, as Pain so kindly demonstrated when he attacked the village. She had no destructive intentions, but was the first thing her mind supplied to make Naruto stop whatever perverted plan he had brewed inside his head.
“Naruto, you idiot!” yelled Sakura, running after him and grabbing on the fabric of his black jacket and shaking him with a lot of vigor. “What the hell do you think you are doing?!”
“I’m sorry, Sakura-chan” he whined.
“I’m not the one you have to apologize to, you stupid, scatterbrained fool! Shannaro!’
“You will always remain a loud bunch, aren’t you?”
The smooth voice interrupted the commotion and drenched them all in silence. Izuna felt the beautiful sound touch and heal parts of her soul that she had no idea were actually bleeding before. The sound brought her peace and enveloped her in warmth that made her feel almost dizzy.
“Sasuke!” Naruto cheerily greeted him and collected himself from the ground, reaching the said Uchiha in a few easy strides.
Izuna followed Naruto with her gaze, slowly turning around until she saw him and her heart seemed to stop beating for a second, while her stomach tumbled uncomfortably. She watched powerless as the loud blond raised his bandaged right hand and Sasuke actually smirked and bumped fists with him. He extended his acknowledgment to Kakashi and Sakura as well, before his eyes settled onto her and if she felt frozen until then, Izuna became completely immobile, sure that she forgot how breathing actually worked for humans.
His appearance was what she was expecting from someone travelling so much and never staying too much in one place. He was dusty and his clothes – including that weird poncho/cloak – which he was pulling off were in a pretty bad state. But his face remained as beautiful as she remembered it. No… he was more handsome than ever. At nineteen, Sasuke’s features were finally giving way to maturity. His features seemed better defined by raised cheekbones and enticing lips. His mismatched eyes, one black, one ringed purple adding to his mysterious appearance of a worn-out traveler. His hair was longer than she remembered last seeing him, a blue sash keeping his hair tied around his forehead.
“Izuna” Sasuke greeted her, his eyes never straying away from hers.
She took a deep breath when he took a step in her direction and felt her whole body itching to touch him, to hug him, to feel this matured Sasuke’s scent and the warmth that she felt emanating from him; the pull of their fire affinities granted by the Uchiha blood in their veins.
“Sasuke” she answered while he took another step towards her, and the world seemed to blur out around them.
In a less strained atmosphere than four years ago, when they first saw Sasuke at Orochimaru’s hideout, but in the same blurry movement, he went for her. The only difference between then and now was that he wasn’t in a foul mood and neither wanting to attack them. His movements were the same when he reached for her and slowly touched his forehead against Izuna’s, his right hand lost in the long, raven locks of her hair. His eyes closed in contempt, he seemed to settle down and find the peace he went searching for in the first place.
Izuna felt her heart leap out of her chest like it did the first time around. This gesture was a typical one when they were children and he wanted to reassure her that everything was alright whenever Izuna would get scared.
“Do you remember, Izuna?” he murmured so softly that even she could’ve lost it, if they weren’t so close next to each other.
Sasuke had asked her this very thing when they met after almost three years apart, and soon after he left again, without her. Then she looked up, and she could see the smirk playing at the corner of his mouth.
“Two years you stay away from Konoha, and decide that the very first thing you want to tell me is something corny” she said, trying the wipe the smug look off his face.
His smirk grew wider and besides Izuna’s best intentions, she felt her heart flutter. To Izuna’s relief and disappointment, he took a step back, the atmosphere broken by the change of pace and she wondered if his actions would’ve been different if Izuna answered the same as she did four years ago.
“We have a Sharingan, we have a Byakugan, we have a sensor-type from the Uzumaki clan and a Senju as our fucking sensei, and we still manage to get lost from our current objective!” yelled Izuna, feeling the need to punch a hole into a wall.
“Language, please, Izuna” admonished softly said sensei “We cannot forget the fact that this is Orochimaru’s hideout. Some jutsu is activated here that is messing with Kazumi’s sensory ability.”
Kazumi raked a hand through his long, red hair and seemed to mumble some curses under his breath, which were lost over the sound of their steps echoing in the long hallway.
“I’m trying to look for Naruto’s chakra, but there seems to be a distortion field around every nook and cranny in this place. It is infuriating” Said Hikaru, his Byakugan activated and his eyes moving from a spot to another, searching aimlessly. “Naruto always had the most distinguishable chakra, but right now, I can’t see any chakra signature around us.”
Izuna pulled her hand into a fist “I will bring this whole fucking place down. Sasuke will have to get out eventually and we escape this shitty jutsu. It’s not even genjutsu; I would’ve broken it ages ago with my Sharingan!”
“Izuna, please, let’s be reasonable. I know you want to find Sasuke, but this is not the way to do it. The others are around here as well. You may very well hurt them when the hideout collapses.”
Whatever she wanted to say to her sensei was lost over the sound of an explosion shaking the whole hideout, threatening to cave into itself. Kazumi weaved the signs for a barrier jutsu, but he didn’t have the chance to finish it when Izuna sprung forward, to the source of the explosion, with her team having no chance but to follow after her.
The Uchiha girl never felt so exhausted while running. Her body was trained after years and years of physical exercitation, her muscles familiar with the hardships of taijutsu training, to hone her speed to keep up with her special eyes. Rare were moments when Izuna would be out of breath when almost no chakra was used, but in that very moment she felt like her lungs would collapse and her body, resilient and strong, would fail her and leave her paralyzed on the floor. She pushed through, ordering her muscles and limbs to obey her, to cover more and more distance. Sasuke was here.
After almost three years of constantly wondering and worrying, he was here and she would let nothing stand between her and him. She had to see him.
Izuna was out into the clearing formed by the explosion first, her teammates stopping when she did. Usually they would’ve been obnoxious, taunting her, trying to push her out of the way or coax her into acting instead of standing there like a statue, but this time, when Izuna froze in front of them, silence was the only thing that answered back,
Her eyes searched and found and it was painful and bittersweet when Sasuke’s red eyes met hers. Izuna never imagined how much she would miss to see the familiar sight of the Sharingan,
“Izuna, huh? They keep showing up, one after the other.”
Naruto moved in that very instant, trying, by cooperating with Sai to capture Sasuke. Seemingly unfazed, he regarded their moves with his Sharingan and Izuna knew that he had the countermeasure before the momentum of their swings was completely over. Almost as if she was watching in slow motion, her Sharingan registering every single movement, Izuna watched as Sasuke clasped his hands into the boys’ chest and heard the piercing sound of Chidori before an electrical current pushed them away from him.
Still surrounded by the flowing form of Chidori, Sasuke almost vanished completely from his spot and used the same move to push back Izuna’s teammates who weren’t expecting that level of speed and he came to stand in front of her, sword still held tightly by the hilt in his right hand. The world seemed to come to a halt when he looked down to meet her eyes. His hand rose up and moved as fast as the lightning that was surrounding his body just a second ago, his fingers tangling into her hair and bringing their foreheads together.
“Do you remember, Izuna?”
Izuna wished to have the power to yell that she never forgot in the first place but she was seriously entertaining the idea that he actually forgot or was in the process to, because he never came back for her. He never considered her enough to be of use to him. She didn’t know if she should feel happy or angry, or why was she feeling a mixture of both, but bit the inside of her cheek until she felt the metallic taste of blood on her tongue, in need to regain her lost senses.
“I do remember, Sasuke. I remember everything; but you? Do you wish to remember?”
Her body finally answering her commands, she shot a hand up and grabbed the front of his white shirt, pulling him closer to her. His stance continued to be relaxed, but the fingers he held in her hair tightened a bit,
“I wish to erase everything that made you suffer” he answered simply, and pulled back completely when Sakura attempted to attack him.
He singlehandedly escaped Yamato and his wood attack and retaliated hard against her own team’s attempts to catch him. Kazumi was pinned down to the ground with his leg cut deep enough that he couldn’t move without difficulty, Hikaru’s attack met another surging current of Chidori, Akira’s water technique was neutralized with a more powerful fire based one and he evaded completely Izuna’s attempt at close combat. Before they could even prepare their next attack, Orochimaru was next to him, and they left. She felt as empty as his black eyes when he last looked at her when they vanished completely.
“Izuna-chan, are you alright? Shall we ask Sakura to take a look at you? Maybe you are still hurt from your other mission” said Kakashi almost next to her.
Even though Izuna couldn’t see his face, she knew from the tone of his voice that he was smirking.
“I didn’t get hurt on my mission, Hokage-sama. I still have Kamui, if you forgot what my abilities are and how you waste them on bandit missions.”
Kakashi frowned when Izuna addressed him so formally.
“Like I said, drop the sama part. It is not needed. It has been two years and still no one wants to listen to that.”
Her eyes went back to look at Sasuke, to make sure that he was still there. Instead of fighting his team, he was bantering friendly with them, like he never left Konoha and Izuna felt thankful that this was the team that Sasuke was assigned to when they graduated. Any other would’ve just given up, and Sasuke would’ve never had a second family that he could call his own.
“You need a haircut and a shower, asshole!” laughed Naruto loudly.
“I was on the road until now, usuratonkachi. What is your excuse?”
“Wha-… are you telling me that I need a shower?!”
“Took you long enough, dimwit.”
“That is it! Fight me! Right here, right now!”
Kakashi rolled his eyes and set a hand on Naruto’s shoulder.
“Calm down. Let Sasuke rest for a bit before you challenge him to something. He just came home.”
Izuna smiled, the sight familiar and so lost over the years that passed. She missed the old days, whenever she would lay her eyes on team seven, whenever they were around Konoha, they would do the same thing. After Sasuke left, she realized how much she missed the interactions between them that drove her mad whenever they had joint missions together, that most of the time made her roll her eyes.
Shaking herself off her reverie she stepped in front of Sasuke and handed him a pouch full of money “Here. These are from your account. I’m sure your redemption didn’t have a plan to get paid. I have some business to sort out. You hang out with your team and I’ll see you tomorrow when we leave.”
Sasuke nodded and that was her cue. She disappeared in the familiar swirling of Kamui before any of them could ask any questions.
Izuna never appreciated fully the fact that sometimes she was summoned to Torture and Interrogation so she could help with pulling information out of criminals whenever a Yamanaka or someone else good enough wasn’t around, but she did it nevertheless. The types of genjutsu she had to use were laborious and although her chakra reserves were barely tapped into, she still felt the need to lie in bed for a few days, with no sunlight and no human contact. The ninja she interrogated had a pretty trained mind and it took a lot of different approaches until she found the right one in which she could consult his memories without him being alerted by it and trying to commit suicide by biting his tongue.
Instead of lying in bed like she wanted to, she went for the kitchen to cook dinner. Who knows when she will be able to eat a normal meal again after they leave for their mission with Sasuke? Taking in his rugged and dusty appearance, it was for sure that they will have to eat whatever they could find and listen to Naruto and his nagging for wanting a bowl of ramen whenever they would be on a long mission. She added a mental note to keep him busy so he won’t have time to complain about the lack of ramen, even though he will probably have in his pack a few instant ones.
A soft knock on the door pulled her out of her thoughts and she went for the door, trying not to be paranoid and activate her Sharingan and assess the person. She had lots of visitors since she moved back to Konoha, including her own old teammates and she wasn’t thirteen anymore, unable to fight if she was targeted by someone stronger than her. There were already very few that could stand against her and she continued to train and improve every day.
When she opened the door, she was expecting already Kazumi or Hikaru, or even Sakura to pester her more about her feelings for a certain someone, but she didn’t expect that certain someone to stand in her doorway, looking the same as he did by the gate, with a soft expression on his usually stern face and a vague smile playing at the corner of his lips.
“Do you mind? My only options were Naruto with his messy ways, Kakashi and his dogs, Sakura or you. They are special, but you don’t feel the need to talk as much as Naruto and Sakura do.”
“Sure, come in, Sasuke. Make yourself at home.”
She stepped back and walked into the kitchen, trying to be casual and unbothered, although she was feeling now his presence, seeping into every corner of her apartment, soaking it like any space that would contain him, even though it was a palace, would never be enough to snuff out his presence. Cringing inwardly, she had to admit that it reminded her of Madara; even though this wasn’t the most pleasant memory she could muster up. She had to admit though that they had to be similar, seeing as both were, in their respective timelines, incarnates of Indra.
“Do you mind if I take a shower?” he asked, and he suddenly was too close.
So close, she could feel the heat radiating from his body, the flames of the Uchiha and the crackle of the lightning that was purely his. She turned around on her heel, facing him. He undid the sash around his forehead and his black hair was hanging limply around his face. Maybe Naruto was right, Sasuke was in need of a haircut.
“I told you; make yourself at home, Sasuke. You don’t need to ask my permission for everything that you do.”
“Thank you, Izuna. See you later.”
He poked softly at her forehead and went to get his bag and disappeared into her bathroom. Izuna looked a long while; even when she could hear the water of the shower running, her fingers touching at her forehead where she could still feel the heat of his fingers on her skin, like they never left it.
“Pull yourself together.” She mumbled to herself and went back to cooking dinner.
After finding out from Obito the reasons for Itachi’s mistakes, she tended to be more open to his memory and even gathered whatever photos she could find after the things that Konoha went through. They were currently saved up in an album for when Sasuke will want to take them, or even if he wanted to buy a house somewhere in Konoha and display them. She somehow thought that maybe that would be impossible. But if it were possible for her, maybe he could have the same change of heart as well.
One of said photos was on her shelf in the living room, alongside a photo of her mother and father and herself when she started her first day at the academy. Itachi was poking Sasuke’s forehead, while a little Sasuke was holding Izuna’s hand, interrupted in mid request to help them with their training. She could almost hear Itachi saying “Forgive me, Sasuke. Maybe another time.”
It was a bittersweet memory, but she kept it there regardless. She lost a lot of people that were important to her the day Itachi killed the Uchiha clan, but she gained some along the way. Her eyes fell on the photo of her team, a little while after she graduated earlier and was assigned to their squad, forming Team Nine. She was sandwiched in the middle, between the redheaded Kazumi and the pale and ever so restrained, Hikaru. While they were twelve, she was only ten and at that time she considered herself powerful enough to take on the whole world, but she had been gravely mistaken. She could now see that there was only a small girl, a determined one, but just a child.
Her eyes strayed, meeting the soft gaze of her sensei. Senju Akira was her mentor and slowly, he took on the role of becoming her father figure almost. He did a lot of research on the Uchiha and the Sharingan, using his limited knowledge from the time he was in a team with an Uchiha to form up a plan to train and hone her abilities. Whenever his knowledge would stop, Akira would conjure up Kakashi to help with her Sharingan, Guy to help with her taijutsu, speed and reflexes and he would continue to help her improve her knack for ninjutsu and her Lava Release kekkei genkai.
The next photo was the last one that she had with him, taken a while before he died in the mission, awakening her Mangekyo Sharingan in the process. The four of them were standing at the bridge at the gates of Konoha, Kazumi and Hikaru flanking Akira, while Akira held Izuna’s hand while they were demonstrating Kazumi how to effectively combine and synchronize her natural affinity for fire and Kazumi’s natural affinity for wind.
In Akira’s palm, captured in the photo, a small tornado was swirling, engulfed in flames by Izuna’s chakra. She smiled at the fond memory.
“You see, Kazumi? You and Izuna both have perfect chakra control, so it would be no problem for you two to regulate your chakra input. You both have amazingly large chakra reserves and you two using this kind of combination attacks will usually take your enemies by surprise.” Explained Akira, his voice soft, while keeping the tornado steady in his palm.
“What about Hikaru? Can we include him as well?” asked Kazumi.
“It’s a bit tricky, Kazumi. I can use my water affinity to collaborate with you, but my water affinity doesn’t go so well with Izuna’s for fire and earth. But, her taijutsu and her Sharingan are great enough for us to combine it with my Byakugan and the Gentle Fist, like we did since we were Genin.”
Izuna took her hand away disrupting the flames that were licking at the outside portions of the tornado and looked at her two teammates.
“Do you have doubts that we don’t work good together, Kazumi? You concentrated so much on your Fūinjutsu and trying to learn how to heal for us that we had to carry the hardships of the missions.”
“Izuna, don’t tease him…” started Akira, admonishing her.
“Hey, I contributed enough with what I knew! You with your great eyes that can copy anything and two natural affinities.”
“Are you jealous of my heritage, Uzumaki?”
“I couldn’t care less for it, Uchiha!”
Akira stepped between them, like he always did since their first day together.
“This is pointless and you both know it. You are both good and Hikaru is as well. Now, let’s grab a bite to eat. I’m starving and we will be soon summoned to be briefed of our next mission.”
“Do you miss him?”
Sasuke could see Izuna almost jumping out of her skin and extending from a well ingrained habit, a hand to an inexistent shuriken holster, grabbing only air. He watched almost amused as the gears in her head finally snapped back into their place and she was out of her own mind and lifting her chin to look up into his eyes.
She was the spitting image of her mother. Her long black hair, now tied in a low ponytail while she cooked around in the kitchen seemed soft and when he saw her at the gates it was cascading around her like a mantle, the wind softly picking at the strands and making them almost float around her.
Before the Rinnegan took over her right eye, he always liked meeting her obsidian eyes over the crowds, either exchanging exasperated looks or judging silently some loud outbursts from their teammates.
She had beautiful, fair skin that complemented in an almost harsh contrast her black hair and her dark eyes – she was shorter than him, but definitely lean and strong from training. He could also see now, that his mind was drenched in a peace that he hadn’t felt since he was a child that she became a beautiful woman and could only agree silently on his father’s proposal of them being married.
Even though Fugaku only hunted the possibility of an even stronger Sharingan being born from their union, he was starting to agree with him. He heard the story of Izuna’s mother and how she was frowned upon when she chose to marry a shinobi that was outside of the Uchiha clan when she had such a strong Sharingan. The opinions changed when Izuna started to grow and show signs of inheriting her father’s kekkei genkai – the Lava Release. They would’ve been amazed to know how she built an arsenal of ninjutsu around it and wielding a high-level Sharingan as she did since she was only ten years old.
“I do miss him” she finally answered after studying again her sensei’s face in the photo “You were there when I went all crazy to avenge him. The thing I regretted the most when he died was that I hadn’t acknowledged him earlier and called him Akira-sensei. I felt like he didn’t deserve my respect, he, an outsider… I was wrong. He took it upon himself to keep me grounded, to never get too ahead on myself, on my hatred. I think he was thankful that you lost it for the both of us and he could use you and your actions as an argument against my feelings.”
“He was a smart guy to do that. I never fully wished for you to follow the same path.”
Neither wanted to admit the words that hung between them, bitter and painfully reminding them of darker days ‘But I did anyway…”
“What did you do with your team? I heard that the Sixth took time off from the office especially to hang out with you, Naruto and Sakura since they haven’t seen you in two years.”
“We went for ramen” he mumbled, reverting to his old, exasperated, twelve year old self whenever his team’s antics were involved “I tried to refuse since the guy is always eating ramen anyway.”
“I think Hinata cooks for him now. I guess he doesn’t go for ramen that often.”
Typical response from the guy that grew up to be more like his father than he probably ever wanted to be. Izuna smiled for herself.
“Would you like to eat a bit with me? I’m sure you will appreciate a meal after the ramen you were, oh so forced, to eat with Naruto.”
Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her, but Izuna didn’t give him enough time to say anything about her comment. She moved quickly around him, suddenly overwhelmed by his presence so close to her and his scent filling her nose. She didn’t understand why she was reacting this way. She fought alongside with him and there were a few times when she was fully prepared to face him without a single shred of doubt in her heart or tremor in her body. Right now, everything seemed changed, although the familiarity was so painfully refreshing that black haired girl was having trouble trying to imagine how she spent so many years without it.
Dinner was spent in silence. When they were younger, Izuna would’ve listened to Sasuke talk about anything that was going around in his mind. How he planned to surpass Itachi, how he had to learn shurikenjutsu with Mikoto because Itachi was busy, his progress with the Fireball Technique. He was always talking and she loved him for that. Izuna used to be shy and pretty closed off, her best friend Sasuke always making her laugh and talk with him with his energy.
Once they lost their clan, Izuna built her confidence around her grief, concentrating the long days spent in loneliness training to become stronger. Whenever she mastered something, she tried to learn something new, no matter how simple or complex it would’ve been. Sasuke not only stopped talking to her, he stopped talking altogether and she felt the loss every day when she would go to train.
Now, when they were almost matured, the silence grew to be a constant companion for them. Izuna never insisted to ask what he did in his travels, Sasuke was rarely a man of many words and never truly conveyed how he felt about something, excepting of course, the hatred that he felt for years. Izuna herself lived alone, sometimes meeting up with her old teammates, but they weren’t always available. Kazumi joined the ANBU forces again and Hikaru was working in the Hyuga clan to eradicate the stigma between the main house and the branch house and training young and promising members of the branch house.
When she finally broke the silence to ask if Sasuke would like a haircut, the only answer she received was a monotone “hn” but she took it as a yes nonetheless. However, Izuna never truly anticipated how close she had to actually be to him to actually cut his hair and she cursed herself viciously for that. As long as she worked on the longer locks of his hair that were situated in the back, the act was bearable and she could moderately breathe, no matter how much she wished to transform into a puddle and evaporate.
When she had to turn to take care of the uneven bangs and longer locks of hair that were framing his face, Izuna met his intense gaze and paused for a short moment, her breath caught into her throat. She felt like her heart would explode out of her chest while her body seemed to overheat and then cool down forcibly.
“Are you ok, Izuna?”
“Uh, yeah… I’m good. I know since two years ago that you can switch places with anything or anyone within your range. Did you discover anything else about your Rinnegan?”
“I can open up portals to other dimensions. But, I didn’t master it right away. I’m still practicing. At this very moment, I can only transport myself and nothing else.”
“So you need my Kamui to synchronize with your portal so I can bring out Naruto and Sakura as well. Am I right?”
Izuna nodded, finishing up the last touches to his hair and taking a step back.
“I left your bangs the same. But the way I cut it now, it would be ok if you would like to grow your hair out; especially if you want to leave again after this mission.”
It was Sasuke’s turn to nod.
“Izuna… About leaving again…”
She dismissed his attempt with a gesture of her hand.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to say anything. Let’s go to sleep. It’s getting late and we’ll have to get up early.”
That night, with Sasuke in her house, feeling her chest heavy with emotions that she couldn’t even place, she concluded that it was one of the worst nights of sleep that she ever got.
“Should we even be surprised anymore?” asked Sakura, standing next to Naruto who was sitting on his backpack and currently taking a quick nap.
Izuna was close to Sasuke, both of them seeming to be in the same foul mood that accompanied the whole team put together on Sasuke’s request. Kakashi demanded for them to not leave the village without him seeing them off, but he seemed to get great pleasure in taking his sweet time and actually coming to see him off.
“I don’t know how you even went in any missions with this habit of his.” Mumbled Izuna in displeasure and Sasuke seemed to hum something that sounded like an approval of her statement.
“Naruto, don’t you have to say anything?”
Naruto opened his eyes for a second, grumbled something that could never be mistaken for something even close to speaking and closed his eyes again, dozing off.
“Yo! Sorry for being late. I got lost on the path of life.”
“Yes, that’s a lie!” Both Sakura and now a fully awake Naruto shouted in unison.
Sasuke nodded softly, a fond expression passing through his mismatched eyes. Kakashi brought the hand that he held up in a salute to rub the back of his head laughing softly.
“You guys are always fun to tease. So, are the four of you ready to take on this mission?”
They all stated their agreements, with the Uzumaki loudly proclaiming his enthusiasm. He always looked forward to completing missions with his team and the fact that he would go out on one with Sasuke probably fired him up more than the usual.
“We would’ve liked if you could’ve joined us, Kakashi-sensei.” Said Sakura, a soft smile grazing her lips while her eyes seemed to swim in nostalgia.
“I know and I would’ve liked to join you guys as well. The paperwork is insane these days – but, I’m the Hokage and I have to take on my mission seriously. Normally, the one who recommended me the mission would’ve been the captain, but this time, I will appoint Izuna to act in my stead. She completed a lot of missions as a Jonin and I’m sure you guys will have no trouble understanding her orders. Izuna, I would like if you could send me a summon once in a while, so that I know of your progress and what is the status of your mission. Is that alright?”
“Yes. I can do that.”
Kakashi smiled and looked at them with warmth in his dark eyes before shoving his hands into his pockets.
“I’ll see you all when you return. Be safe.”
With these words as their parting, the four young shinobi stepped out of Konoha and ventured into the forest.
Hello and sorry for being late, instead of the date I said will be posting the next chapter!
Thank you for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts!